Abid Bashir| 31-01-2013
Kashmir bears the brunt every time there is an Indo-Pak border flare-up
INDIA, PAKISTAN AND KASHMIR
The recent skirmishes at the Line of Control may have forced the two nuclear powers to calm down and stick to the cease-fire agreement, but Kashmir has already received a big jolt. History bears testimony to the fact that developments in Pakistan and India have directly affected Kashmir, which continues to remain sandwiched between the political ideologies of New Delhi and Islamabad. The recent ceasefire violation on the LoC that culminated in the death of India and Pakistani soldiers raised tensions between the two nuclear powers. Even the mainstream media predicted war.
In Kashmir, a placed ravaged by the perpetual strife for the past 22 years, things seemed normal as life was not directly affected. However, the reality was something else— the LoC trade that runs on barter system was suspended and the only road link, Srinagar-Muzafarabad bus service, connecting the people of two divided Kashmirs was also put on halt. Surprisingly, the hoteliers in the famous ski-resort of Gulmarg also received calls for cancellation of bookings by the foreign and domestic tourists, courtesy LoC flare-up.
Who suffered in the real sense? No doubt soldiers died in both the nations, but the ceasefire violation was a wakeup call for the Kashmir. Even a single incident at the LoC can make Kashmir to suffer badly. “We have never supported the war between India and Pakistan. The fact remains that if two countries engage themselves in war, everything will perish. Kashmir will be the first causality,” says Hurriyat (M) Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. “We suggest to the both countries to shun war approach and to address the root-cause of the problem. The LoC ceasefire violations have once again brought us back to the square one as all Confidence Building Measures seem to have gone waste.”
He says the New Delhi could easily defuse the LoC tension by announcing demilitarization of Kashmir. “I believe when troop-withdrawal would start from Kashmir, guns at the LoC would automatically fall silent,” says Mirwaiz.
Pawan Anand, President of Poonch-Chakandabagh Cross- LoC Traders Association, also admitted that the tension at the LoC will have a negative impact on all CBMs, especially the trade. “We have suffered immensely as the trade remains on for just four days a week. The items to be traded continue to be less. We have suffered at least Rs 20 crore loss due to the recent LoC skirmishes,” he says, adding that it takes ages to build a good relation and to eschew the bitterness, but a single bullet fired at the LoC damages everything. “The Loc trade over the past few years is not based on money but people to people contacts, where emotions and sentiments are involved,” says Anand.
Joining the chorus, President Doctor’s Association Dr Nisarul Hassan says the root-cause of the recent LoC skirmishes is Kashmir. “Every Kashmiri has a bruised psyche following the blood-bath over the past two decades. I believe the CBM’s, the development is just a trap to divert attention from the basic issue,” he says. “The recent war-like situation on the LoC was a signal for every Kashmiri that whenever India and Pakistan would clash, Kashmir would be the first target. Suspension of trade and other things was a beginning.” He says there is a need for a collective approach. “All intellectuals of the valley should rise and fight for the resolution of the issue,” says Dr Nisar.
General Secretary Kashmir Economic Alliance, KEA, Siraj Ahmed says that the trade route of Uri-Salamabad should have been a lifeline for better relations. “The 2008 agitation was for opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route for ever. Unfortunately, this CBM too has been curtailed while the rest of CBMs have become the causality. Under all circumstances, the dialogue process must go on as it not only a question of today’s trade but Kashmiris have to think for their survival for which it is important to take all stakeholders on board so that all the alternatives are open for us,” he says. “Peace process should go on more vigorously for effective solution of Kashmir problem. For this, India and Pakistan should re-double their efforts.”
Senior National Conference leader Sheikh Mustafa Kamaal says war is not the solution to any problem. “They should not make Kashmir as a battle ground. Let them fight somewhere else. We have already suffered a lot since 1947,” he says. “I believe the divided Kashmir should unite for which India and Pakistan has to demilitarize the territories under them. Then people of the erstwhile J&K should be granted the right to decide their fate. The unification has to take place come what may.”
Former President Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir FCIK, Shakeel Qalander says it was unfortunate that due to the media hysteria, the issue was sensationalized, which could have been otherwise solved at the diplomatic level. “The incident should be probed and ceasefire should be earnestly and religiously followed. War is not a way out and we need to rebuild our relations,” he says. “Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should continue to move ahead with the CBMs. Kashmiri have already bore the brunt of the whole tension and they should not further become scapegoats between the two countries,” he adds.
Although normal activities in Kashmir remained unaffected due to the recent escalation of tension at the LoC, but as the guns fell silent, New Delhi did not miss the opportunity to ask United Nations to withdraw its mission in Kashmir. However, the move evoked strong criticism from the pro-freedom camp of Kashmir. Interestingly, United Nations also refused to vacate from Kashmir, saying that only United Nations Security Council can decide about the issue and that UN was fully active in Kashmir. “United Nations Military Observers Group of India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) office in Srinagar is a proof that Kashmir is a dispute. Though New Delhi has cited Shimla agreement of 1972, (which calls for status quo between the two nations) a reason for vacation of UN office, but I believe its Delhi’s ploy to institutionalize its occupation in J&K,” says Adil Bhat, a Kashmir University student. “At least we have something in the form of UN office that gives us satisfaction that something is wrong with Kashmir. If this office is removed, there will be no visible sign except martyr’s graveyards for our future generations that could prove Kashmir is a dispute.”
Javaid Ahmed Mir, the pioneer of armed resistance of Kashmir, says tension between India and Pakistan is on since the past 60 years. “The two nations have suffered losses militarily. But the fact remains that everything boils down to Kashmir. Just a single incident at the LoC makes it clear that CBM’s are temporary and the real issue is Kashmir which needs to be solved for permanent peace in the Sub-continent,” says Mir.